And With Just a Letter, Stanford Blatch Exits 'AJLT' But Fans Aren't Happy

Sunday December 26, 2021
Originally published on December 24, 2021

Deaths — fictional and real — on "And Just Like That," the "Sex and the City" follow-up that EDGE is dubbing "American Horror Story: Carrie," have been a bit odd to say the least. The untimely September death of actor Willy Garson (Carrie's gay bestie Stanford Blatch on "SATC") left the show's creators in a bind as how to handle his character's exit. It proved to be awkward when it played out in the latest episode of "AJLT."

This followed the death of Mr. Big (Chris Noth) in the HBO Max series' first episode. He was given a big romantic send-off when he died of a heart attack in the shower after his Peloton workout (with an instructor called Allegra). On the episode, Carrie enters and cradles him as he dies.

That she didn't bother to call for help has been criticized; and Mr. Big's death also created some unrelated problems, including Peloton stock dropping 11% the day after the episode aired. Cleverly the company (with the help of Ryan Reynolds ad agency) came up with a new ad in two days that has him alive and well but soon pulled it after accusations of sexual harassment went viral against the 66-year-old actor.

But the creators faced a different problem with Garson, who was intended to be an ongoing character this season. In 2010 had married Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone) in the film sequel with Liza Minnelli singing Beyonce's "Single Girls" at their wedding.

When Garson died in September at the age of 56, he had already filmed three episodes in scenes mostly fighting with Anthony. Then on episode four, Anthony dropped a bombshell: Stanford has left for Japan on a tour with a client and is asking for a divorce. And he conveyed his message with two letters: one for Carrie and one for Anthony, the difference between the two being that in the latter letter, he asks for a divorce.

So far this season, the couple have largely been seen bickering, which suggests that the idea of divorce was always in the works. That it happened most abruptly with this letter, which felt shoehorned into the episode.

The New York Times in their recap put this awkward turn of events this way: "Stanford always had a catty side, which was one of his more endearing traits, but it is hard to imagine he would have Dear John'd both Carrie and Anthony in such a hardhearted way. Perhaps the writers didn't want us dwelling in sadness over the loss of Garson, but it's hard not to feel like we never knew Stanford at all. The Stanny we knew would have at least wanted to share one last cigarette with Carrie."

And, as the Times points out: she is smoking again.

At the end of the episode, the series paid tribute to Garson with a credit slide. Garson's death came as a shock when it was announced in September.

"Prior to the series premiere on Dec. 9, costar Cynthia Nixon confirmed that Garson completed filming of three episodes before his death," Entertainment Weekly writes: "Aside from Parker, a majority of the actor's costars were unaware of his private cancer battle until the late stages of his disease."

She continued: "Thankfully we were able to shoot with him not just before he was sick but after so it could be something we could discuss and listen to him about," Nixon said in a press interview following his death. "I know that was very important for us and I think it was something that was important to him, too — not to be hiding that from us anymore."

On Twitter, the explanation of his exit from the show was pretty much slammed: